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Excessive Gas (Flatulence)

What is excessive gas?

Passing gas on a daily basis is normal. The average person passes gas at least 10 to 12 times a day. Passing gas even up to 23 times a day can be normal. If your child is passing gas more than this amount, this may be a sign of excessive gas. Gas bothers some people more than others. It can be accompanied by gas pains and/or bloating. Bloating is the feeling of fullness and cramping that can accompany gas.

Causes of excessive gas

Excessive gas (flatulence) is usually caused by swallowing air when eating or drinking. Also, foods that are high in fibre, such as beans and cabbage, and carbonated drinks can cause excessive gas.

Other causes may include:

Treatment of excessive gas 

In general, your child’s excessive gas will not need medical treatment. Most of the time, excessive gas can be managed by changing your child’s diet or making sure they are not swallowing large amounts of air when eating.

The use of probiotics​ may help reduce excessive gas. Examples of foods containing probiotics include yogurt, soy beverages, and some juices. However, not all probiotics are the same. Some may increase flatulence. Talk to your child’s doctor or dietician about probiotics.

Consider keeping a written diary of the foods and drinks that your child consumes so that you can identify what foods give them gas.

Here are some dietary changes you can make:

  • You can cut down on certain foods which are known to produce a lot of gas including cabbage, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, corn, asparagus, cauliflower, beans, legumes, peas, and broccoli. These foods offer many nutritional benefits so they should be reduced in the diet but not cut out completely.
  • If your child enjoys eating beans and gaseous-producing vegetables, try giving them a product called Beano. This is an enzyme that has been shown to reduce excessive gas. It can be used in children over the age of 12.
  • Reduce the amount of milk your child is drinking to two glasses a day.
  • Decrease or eliminate artifical sweetners, chewing gum, and fizzy drinks like pop.
  • Medicines containing Simethicone (like Gas-X, Maalox, and Oval) may reduce gas. This medication is available over-the-counter and it is safe to use in babies and children, but speak to your child's doctor before starting any medication. Studies have not proven the effectiveness of this medication in reducing gas but some parents find it helps their children.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if:

  • your child is losing weight
  • your child has loose stools or diarrhea that last for more than seven days
  • your child's abdomen is distended (ballooning outward)
  • symptoms persist after dietary changes
  • persistent stomach pain
  • blood in the stool
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting which is frequent and/or persistent

Key points

  • In most cases, your child’s excessive gas will not need medical attention.
  • Simple dietary changes can reduce the amount of gas buildup in your child’s stomach.
  • Foods high in fibre can cause excessive gas. Other causes may include antibiotics or constipation.
  • See your child’s doctor if you think she may be lactose intolerant.
Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE